A Groundbreaking New Therapy Is Said To Reduce The Symptoms Of Autism
This might be the news parents of children with autism have been longing to hear: A study seemed to have found a therapy that has been proven to reduce the severity of autism symptoms.
Published in the The Lancet, an intervention called The Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT) is the first of its kind to show long-term benefits for kids with autism in a well-designed scientific study.
The exciting study, which was a joint project by researchers at Manchester University, Newcastle University, and King’s College London, involved parents of 152 children—mostly boys—aged two to four, who all were at the severe end of the autism spectrum.
As part of the project, parents were guided by therapists in how to communicate better with their children.
According to The Guardian, the method involved teaching parents of children aged between two and four “super-parenting” skills, by showing them videos of their interactions with their children in a number of sessions over six months, plus 20-30 minutes’ “homework” each day. Support sessions were provided for a further six months.
What the study showed, was that six years after parents were trained to better understand and interact with their preschool children, researchers found that the therapy had moderated the behaviour of those who had been severely autistic, unresponsive or unable to speak.
And the success of the trial has surprised even the researchers who designed it. There are no drugs to treat the condition, which typically sets in around the age of two, and many families have tried intensive training of their children by therapists, with mixed results. Turning things on its head, the Preschool Autism Communication Trial Pact instead trained the parents to help their children.
Prof Jonathan Green at the University of Manchester, who led the study, had himself and his colleagues have not found the cure for autism, but that he and his team believed it had great potential and hoped it would be widely adopted.
“The advantage of this approach over a direct therapist-child intervention is that it has potential to affect the everyday life of the child,” Green explained. “Our findings are encouraging, as they represent an improvement in the core symptoms of autism previously thought very resistant to change.
And although the professor is quick to point out that this is not a cure in the sense that the children who demonstrated improvements will still show remaining symptoms to a variable extent, but says the results does "suggest that working with parents to interact with their children in this way can lead to improvements in symptoms over the long term.”